A church characterized by the five virtues of Vincent de Paul might appeal to millennials and “nones”. “Millennials, Vincent and his 5 virtues” is a cross post of a reflection I originally wrote for FamVin.
One need only look around in churches on any given Sunday to see the millennials are missing. A millennial recently wrote that he would very much like to feel positive about the church but can not.
“I desperately want to feel (head-over-heels) about church, but I don’t. Not even a little bit. In fact, like much of my generation, I feel the complete opposite.
According to a Pew Foundation study (and many others like it) church attendance and impressions of the church are the lowest in recent history, and most drastic among millennials described as 22- to 35-year-olds.
- Only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
- 59 percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
- 5 percent of millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
- Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church (by far).
Sadly, the phenomenon is reflected in wider studies which report that “nones” constitute the second largest religious category in the United States.
The same study linked above reveals five research-backed reasons why millennials have stopped attending church. They feel that
- the church is fake;
- the church is exclusive;
- ‘the church doesn’t care about their community;
- the church is aggressive and hyper-critical;
- the church ignores the big issues.
A way forward
I recently revisited Vincentian Fr. Ed Udovic’s video podcast about a contemporary approach to understanding the 5 virtues(values) of St. Vincent de Paul.
In his view, Vincent’s five virtues might be translated for today as being
- Honest (Simplicity)
- Approachable (Meekness)
- Self-disciplined (Mortification)
- Realistic (Humility)
- Hard working (Zeal for souls)
He sees these virtues as expressions of the profoundly Christo-centric values of VIncent.
More specifically, he says that In order to serve as Christ the Evangelizer of the poor requires
- a simplicity that seeks the truth wherever it is to be found, recognizes the truth when found, witnesses to the truth in word, and lives the truth by actions as they relate to oneself, one’s neighbor, one’s my world and one’s God.
- a meekness which is a personal availability in relationships that are authentic, and thus inviting, inclusive, accepting, understanding. equal and loving
- a mortification which is self- disciplined and absolutely clear about what one believes, what one value and what are the priorities in one’s life. It must then imposed upon one’s self a self-discipline that will enable one to live these values in a consistent, integrated and effective manner.
- a humility that is realistic which means I must always creatively balance the inherent tensions between pessimism and optimism knowing full well what I and other human beings are capable of and not capable of and gratefully relying on God’s grace and providence as the sustaining force of our lives and indeed all salvation history.
- a zeal for souls that is hard working. There always. much to be done in the kingdom of God and what remains to be done both personally and corporately is not easily accomplished without laboring with the “strength of our arms and sweat of our brows (St. VIncent).”
I do not think it requires much of a stretch of the imagination to see how a church characterized by the above might appeal to millennials and “nones”. The more I think of it, Vincent was on to something that explains what so many people have come to follow his way of life over the past 400 years.
Interestingly, Fr. Udovic offers an insight into the meaning of the name Congregation of the Mission as “people gathered together for the sake of the mission.”
What do you think of these insights?
How well we we live these values?